Sexual abuse is a horrendous offense that as many as one in three women and one in four to five men have suffered. These women are our pregnant and birthing mothers. These men are our birthing fathers. The effects of these experiences can color everything in the victim’s life. Pregnancy and birth are times when healing can take place, but abuse often recurs within the truly broken birth systems throughout the world. With a rising cesarean and induction rate, women are often left with a real sense of helplessness. When a woman has suffered abuse, the sense of having no control is often multiplied.
We absolutely need to do everything we can to stop this personal affront on children. While doing that we need to treat everyone with the balm of love and kindness that can help anyone’s life. We as midwives need to be aware of the help we can provide if it is called for. Some women will not want to deal with this issue. Some women will not know it happened to them until they experience a trigger such as the baby coming through. Others will be offended if they say something and you ignore their need. It is a balancing act that needs the utmost thought, love and intuition on your part.
Most midwives have a question on their prenatal forms now. Oftentimes the answer to the question “Have you been raped or sexually abused” will be no. Sometimes the truth comes out later when she trusts you. In the book, Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse, the authors and women suggest not to dig into a victim’s past but not to ignore her if she puts out the seeds of revelation. I highly recommend this book, published by Motherbaby Press, to all birth practitioners. We owe it to the women and men we serve to understand sexual abuse as well as we can.
There is so much work we do in the prenatal course. We establish and maintain relationships, counsel and help women stay “normal” through nutrition. As I have said before, most midwives feel that 90% of complications can be avoided with good prenatal care. Now we add this consolation when working with mothers and fathers who may have suffered abuse, and the wonderful aspect of this is that the answer is the same for everyone, whether they have had this experience or not. It is my favorite scripture: “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
— Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today
Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.
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Growing concern among mothers, researchers and activists regarding hospital freebie bags offering new moms infant formula has been reflected in several recent studies. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “report card on breast-feeding…showed that less than 5 percent of US infants are born in “baby-friendly” hospitals that fully support breast-feeding, and that 1 in 4 infants receive formula within hours of birth.” Many are pushing to prevent hospitals from offering free formula samples as a means of further advocating the proven health benefits of feeding infants exclusively breast milk.
— Lindsey Tanner. “Is Breastfeeding Being Undermined by Hospital Freebies?” The Huffington Post. September 26, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/26/breastfeeding-undermined-by-hospitals_n_980840.html
The Baby Bond: The New Science Behind What’s Really Important When Caring for Your Baby
Linda Palmer brings scientific evidence supporting natural parenting choices. Bonding, breastfeeding, nutrition, food allergies, SIDS. Extensively documented in warm, reader-friendly terms. “A must read for new and expecting families and an important text for educators.” — ICEA “Well researched and hard hitting.” — J Human Lactation http://www.thebabybond.com/aboutthebook.html
In My Opinion—Birth as a Vehicle for Healing
According to conservative estimates, one in four women has been sexually violated. Many practitioners believe that this number is much higher due to underreporting. Moreover, if we include a wide variety of incidences of boundary violations, broken promises and inappropriate behavior directed at a child or in any situation where a power differential exists between one person and another, then the numbers are much higher. As a survivor and a midwife I am interested in how gentle birth can provide an opportunity to fully reclaim one’s body and power.
Pregnancy and birth have the potential to be part of a woman’s healing. However, midwives have good reason not to attempt to directly address sexual trauma. A gentle birth is powerful, and a woman’s growing sense of power and her unique place in the world—discovered through birthing—can help her move away from feeling victimized. We all know that medicalized birth is filled with opportunities for harm. Common obstetric protocols that can re-traumatize include prolonged perineal pressure, finger forceps and episiotomy. Sexual violation is by definition non-consensual. Therefore, informed consent is an essential part of the healing offered by the midwifery model of care.
As midwives, most of us do not have the training to use traditional therapeutic strategies, and even if we do have training one of the most important skills when working with someone who has been violated is to maintain clear and strong boundaries. This is because sexual violation is an assault on boundaries.
Unless a woman brings her story to me, I do not ask about this aspect of her history. I believe that this is the first important boundary. Allowing a person who is healing from sexual violation as much control as possible over her self-definition and choice of action will help her move forward in her healing.
If a woman does disclose a history of violation, my role is to listen with sympathy and respond genuinely. I do not need to set an agenda to address this beyond what she requests. If I feel a pull to fix, save or repair her, I take a deep breath and remember the boundaries of our relationship. I remember that I am one small part of her journey toward healing. I have faith that it is her life and that her own faith and wisdom will be the agent of healing. By remembering this, and perhaps by communicating my faith, I clarify the boundary. I am her midwife, not her therapist.
— Kate Pendergast
Excerpted from “In My Opinion: Birth as a Vehicle for Healing,” Midwifery Today, Issue 90
View table of contents / Order the back issue
|Learn what’s going on during a shoulder dystocia|
The Resolving Shoulder Dystocia DVD shows you five types of shoulder dystocia and the techniques that solve them. A one-hour studio class includes slideshows, birth clips and demos, while the second hour shows systematic and clear demonstrations of techniques using a doll and pelvis. This is an important resource for your birth library.
How common is postmaturity syndrome
and how should it be managed?
Learn about this and more in The Postdates and Postmaturity Handbook, the newest addition to Midwifery Today’s Holistic Clinical Series. This handbook will help you understand the myths and prevent the risks associated with postdates pregnancies and postmaturity syndrome. This valuable resource belongs in every midwife’s library.
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Learn the foundations of beginning midwifery!
Our all-new Beginning Midwifery Audio 4-CD Set will give you vital information that will help you get a good start on your midwifery education. You’ll learn about woman-centered care, how a woman’s emotions can affect her birth and how to give your clients a head-to-toe physical. Also covered are intake forms, diet and the importance of drinking water. Speakers are Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos, Carol Gautschi, Elizabeth Davis and Patricia Edmonds.
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Thinking about becoming a midwife?
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Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education is just what any aspiring midwife needs! The fourth edition of this book includes several new articles on the various midwifery philosophies, new information on becoming an apprentice, dozens of recently updated articles, and a current directory of more than 150 schools, programs and other resources.
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Midwifery Today Back Issues have the information you need!
From second stage and prematurity to birth change and natural remedies, back issues of Midwifery Today print magazine are packed with informative articles that will help you improve your practice. You’ll also find inspiring birth stories, birth news, poetry and stunning black and white photography. Choose from these available back issues.
Read this article from the current issue of Midwifery Today magazine, Autumn 2011, newly posted to our Web site:
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Q: Like most midwives, I’m not a fan of doing newborn screens. Lately it seems I’ve had a rash of poor bleeders. Any hints or tricks for minimizing the need to poke twice?
— Cindy Lockhart
A: Make sure the heel is warm. I find this to be helpful!
— Lucy Tapia Franco
A: Make sure the baby is being cuddled and breastfed, a warm and relaxed baby doesn’t react to the pain the same and bleeds better; also once the prick is done, wait a few seconds for the blood to collect and do one gentle squeeze…, I have a 100% success rate with this. As soon as you take the baby away from mum/breast, they stress and the test becomes difficult for everyone involved.
— Basia McAuley
Expanding your personal library?
How about expanding your local library with books that encourage natural and instinctual birth? How much information about natural and instinctive birth is at your library? As a patron of a library, you have a say about what books they carry. Let your library know you want natural birth and midwifery materials to be available. Your library is your resource. Use it.
Educated parents breeding the second generation of Brooklyn hipsters are increasingly circumspect about their childbearing options, with mothers taking a more proactive role than a conventional hospital labor and delivery might allow. And those skittish about giving birth in their own bedrooms can still benefit from doulas…who are willing to attend hospital births: These doulas will work with a mother to create a “birth plan” and advocate its enforcement on behalf of a woman who may be in a vulnerable state during crucial decision-making stages.
— Ellen Killoran, on a new generation of midwives and doulas living in New York City.
…My breast milk is not something I’ve actually seen before. It goes from my breast into Finn’s mouth, apart from the occasional drip (or spray−woah−didn’t know those suckers could shoot so far!). It’s kind of amazing that I can create food in the first place, and the process just seemed sort of magic.
— Sarah Crossman, mom and blogger for NPR’s The Baby Project, on her initial reactions to breastfeeding.
Giving every child the best start in life is the highest priority. This is the key to reducing health inequalities and creating a fairer society. Prioritisation of community child health services is vital.
— Andrew Jones, executive director of public health for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) in Wales, on economic inequalities affecting the health of infants.
If you’d like to share a bit of wisdom from the Web, please send a 4–5 sentence excerpt, accompanied by a link, to email@example.com.
Ina May Gaskin Awarded
Ina May Gaskin has won a very prestigious award, “The Right Livelihood Award for outstanding vision and work on behalf of our planet and its people”; you can read more about the award and Ina May here: http://rightlivelihood.org/inamay_gaskin.html
Midwifery Today has been very, very blessed in that Ina May has been a regular speaker at many of our conferences. She and her husband, Stephen Gaskin, who also received this award in 1980, will be teaching with us in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This is shaping up to be an excellent event. We hope you can join us for an amazing learning, sharing and caring experience. Many other great teachers will be joining Ina May and Stephen and Midwifery Today to bring a conference that will hopefully meet your needs and propel you with passion in serving motherbaby!
— Jan Tritten
Pregnancy can be challenging for any woman, especially a woman expecting her first baby. Almost all women express fears about medical procedures, labor and birth and being a good mother. Survivor moms may have additional challenges—even those who have managed the effects of their abuse history well up until pregnancy.
— Mickey Sperlich and Julia S. Seng
Excerpted from Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse, Motherbaby Press
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